All in the garden! Over the past twenty years, the craze for home gardens or collective does not disappoint. Willingness to renew contact with nature, growing her own vegetables, ensuring a healthy diet, but also to contribute to the greening of their city, more and more city dwellers are knocking on the doors of the town halls or associations that manage these small plots of land, generating waiting lists long as a day without bread. Up to three times the number of available plots!

last Tuesday, the library of the national Society of horticulture of France (SNHF), has dedicated a day of study to this phenomenon, whose origin dates back to the late Nineteenth century with the creation of what was then called the “workers gardens”, the ancestors of our current home gardens. Several major figures are at the origin of this movement, as the abbé Jules Lemire, deputy mayor of Hazebrouck (North) who founded, in 1896, the French League’s corner of the earth, and the home.

“Guarantor of the social peace” the Culture of tomatoes in Lyon, in the Saint-Jean district in 1949. Janine Niepce

The objective of this ecclesiastical classified to the left, which will later be sanctioned by the pope for having supported the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, is “put at the disposal of the head of the family a piece of land to grow vegetables necessary for the consumption of the household”. in Addition to the aspect feeder, it is also to encourage the workers of the major mining areas and industrial and practice a healthy activity in the open air, which takes away from their “slums,” and “cabaret” , generators of tuberculosis and alcoholism.

“In the households of workers where the plants are in favour, there is order and cleanliness; the cabaret is left behind” , we read in a chronicle published in 1896 in Annales de la Société central d’horticulture de France, the ancestor of the SNHF. Another article published in the same journal praises the role of “guarantor of the social peace” of the allotments that a number of companies are, at the same time, the available to their employees. “It is true that gardening also helps to expel the latter from the trade unionism” , note Daniel Lejeune, director of the SNHF in charge of the library.

read also: Gardening, it is good for the moral!

Everything you acquired to the doctrine of the terrianisme according to which each man has the right to enjoy a piece of land, the abbot Lemire is going to create associative structures in order to enable the workers to free themselves from the tutelage of their employer. And to be able to keep their plot if they were brought in to lose their work. The less space available located close to housing or factories, is put in culture in the North but also in the paris region and in most of the major urban centres, such as Saint-Étienne under the impulse of the father Felix Volpette.

“He lives and reigns at the beginning of the Twentieth century, a tremendous bubbling , points out Jean Wohrer, director of the national Federation of family gardens and the collective outcome of the League of the abbé Lemire. The worker has the freedom to grow what he wants for his own consumption but in a collective mind, based on the exchange of ideas that is more intelligent together than alone.”

The equivalent of a thirteenth month

In 1928, France has 383 000 allotments, of which 70 000 are operated by railway workers on land granted by the railway companies (which will be nationalized in 1937). “from this time onwards, the profile of gardeners begins to diversify with the arrival of new occupational categories: craftsmen, employees, traders…” underlines Béatrice Cabedoce, in charge of research in social history at the departmental council of the Val-d’oise.

With the Occupation, and deprivation which arise from it, the number of allotments will almost double to reach 700 000 in 1945 before falling to 150,000 twenty years later. The Thirty Glorious years, the urbanization, the emergence of the consumer society, with the advent of supermarkets, have passed through here, giving these gardens, an image old-fashioned and outdated. “With the crisis, the renewed interest we are seeing today is due in large part by economic motivations”, explains Serge Lamarre of the association Jardinot, citing the preliminary results of a survey conducted in partnership with the SNHF that show that a garden allows a household to achieve a saving of up to € 1 500 per year, the equivalent of a thirteenth month.

Create a social link

The context has however changed in over a century. The size of the plots, significantly smaller, is modulated as a function of time available to devote to gardening. The ecological dimension is also prominent as was the need to create a social link and be integrated with the city, the image of the gardens of the park of the Great Heaths in Villejuif (Val-de-Marne). Or of those social landlords who install successfully of gardens at the foot of some of the bars of buildings.

The pressure on land, more and more fraught, however, with the uncertain future. “We are in the face of conflicting orders, almost schizophrenic: on the one hand a growing demand for housing and the need to revegetate the cities” , observes Jean Wohrer. Waiting lists are not going to close shortly.

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